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Jul-03-2006 15:45printcomments

Op-Ed: Impact of Incest Lingers for Male Victims as Well

This column is written in the heat of summer about a hot-button topic that has for far too long been hidden in society's closet. It is time that it sees the light of day. That topic is incest's impact on male victims, which is at times trivialized.

Manuel Vega, Sen. Joseph Dunn, lawyer Larry Drivon
Manuel Vega (right), who as an altar boy was sexually abused by a priest who has since fled to Mexico, holding a bread and water fast outside the new cathedral in Los Angeles in 2003. He is joined here by California State Sen. Joseph Dunn (center) and lawyer Larry Drivon
Photo courtesy: The National Catholic Reporter

(SALEM) - I am by no means an expert on sexual abuse, quite the opposite, having grown up in a hugely Victorian family on the East Coast. But over the last decade, as a Clinical Social Worker in Oregon, I have had nearly a dozen adult male clients who retain the trauma left by childhood incest and abuse.

In one case, the victim was actually transferred from the home of an alcoholic mother to foster care with a church elder. Reportedly the elder had a dying wife, and chose to molest his young teenage ward as a substitute for his perverted hormones. In another case, both parents allegedly molested their little boy to the extent that he required surgery.

Such sick scenarios may be far more extensive than we wish to acknowledge. The recent public scandal involving pedophile priests may merely be the proverbial "tip of the iceberg". Why the male reticence to step forward? Probably because we males are socially conditioned not to appear weak and helpless. If a grown man admits to victimization, that shatters our public image of self-sufficiency. You will find far more women in therapy than men, based on the premise above.

When my latest client disclosed his trauma, I began resource hunting. I called our local Women's Crisis Center in Salem to find a parallel service for men, but they knew of none. Then I called the local crisis hotline. They too had no equivalent agency that would handle male victims. Several community mental health contacts brought forth the same negative results. There is evidently a vast gap that fails to recognize that male victims have special needs and, unfortunately, are largely unaddressed.

Finally, I called Marilyn Callahan, LCSW, Oregon chapter's recent awardee for her work in rehabilitation of sexual offenders. She confirmed my worst fears: that the state and county governments provide no funding for this neglected area.

Never one to retreat from a social justice fight, I'm trying to work for a future plan to require that within two years, every county mental health agency will have trained at least one MSW or professional counselor in male sex abuse issues. To ensure quality control, I would ask that our State Clinical Social Work Board be granted oversight to set up standards for such training. Anyone have a better plan?

The late Eleanor Roosevelt used to say, "It is better to light a candle than to simply curse the darkness". I empathically agree. Let the Dark Ages of hiding sex abuse committed against vulnerable boys be lifted. Enlightenment is long overdue.

NOTE: The writer has been married for 25 years and is not himself a sexual abuse victim, but was emotionally abused in his youth. Thus, his empathy for all victims—of both genders--is deeply etched. You can e-mail Lee Coyne at:


Internal Comments are Closed on this story.

Gail, RN January 11, 2007 12:53 pm (Pacific time)

I think the author, Mr. Coyne has an excellant suggestion that is long overdue. It is a know fact that young men and boys who are sexually molested have a high rate of becoming molestors themselves. (not all, of course, just a large percentage) Maybe if these young men could get some mental health help we could stop the cycle. I am not taking about young men that are homosexuals, I am talking about sexually molested boys who grow up and become molestors themselves. Why does this happen, I am not sure, but counseling would help them figure things out and heal from their trauma.

LA Lenram July 20, 2006 8:53 am (Pacific time)

I am sorry for any person who is affected by a disturbing sexual experience including adults. Adults need to try to be strong but children are off limits. Nothing however in this life is black or white. When I was about 16 years old, I had the opportunity to have a sexual encounter with a priest. My mother figured something might go on and ruined what would have been a good experience for me. I am only speaking for myself and at this age regret that my mother felt she had to sabotage my fun. If it were an adult woman she would have thought it was ok. She considered that normal and would have found it amusing that her 15 year old son had sex with a 35 year old woman. I was attracted to men anyway and I would have liked to have sex with an adult male. Even when I was young I wanted sex with someone older than me. How much older could have been about 20 years older. One size does not fit all (a bit of a pun) especially for teenagers that are ready, but it is for the teenager to decide. People think that everything is set because they are scared of the unknown. When I was even younger about 12 or 13 my brother was about 14 or 15. He knew how to develop film and made his own little dark room. The result was children making child pornography and we all had a blast. Most of our parents are dead now. They could have never known the fun, excitment, laughs and erotic feelings that we were fortunate enough to experience. This happened almost forty years ago and I wish I had the pictures. Unfortunately my brother destroyed them. We also used to have guys in the neighborhood that would flash the young girls around 13 or so. They would laugh their asses off until their mothers became hysterical and transferred their hysteria to the daughters. Most of the girls loved it because the men never got out of the car. They would just drive around with their pants down or off. So when it comes to sex never go on a band wagon against things. I would also suggest that young girls just watch the men from a good distance and certainly not get in the car. This way they can have fun memories of the flashers that can be quite entertaining.

Danny Haszard July 4, 2006 8:45 am (Pacific time)

Speak out! Jehovah’s Witnesses go door to door as part of their faith to recruit converts,this includes members who are convicted pedophiles! Pedophilia is covered up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses on a scale worst than the Catholic priest scandal.Not only do they deny it but the Watchtower has instructed the Kingdom Hall elders to go after all whistle-blowers. The JW’s exploit an obscure 2,000 year old bible passage and demand that there be TWO witnesses to every act of child abuse committed by a Jehovah’s Witness.This fosters a code of silence and a “pedophile’s paradise” in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The ‘Two Witness’ Take-Down is a subterfuge exploited by Jehovah’s Witnesses that is selectively enforced by elders who play favorites and fast and loose with the truth,an excuse to ignore and suppress evidence at whim. Learn more Jehovah’s Witnesses children’s advocacy site

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